The readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Team
October 15, 2009: RUNNING BACK
RUNNING BACK-Thomas Jones
CHANGE OF PACE-Anthony Thomas
In contention: James Allen, Raymont Harris, Thomas Jones, Anthony Thomas
Stats were better than the memories: Cedric Benson, Curtis Enis, Rashaan Salaam
The year was 1998, and times were rough for Bears fans. We were enduring our second consecutive 4-12 season, the final year of Wanny. Offensive talent was scant. At least 1997 gave us career years from popular veterans Erik Kramer and Raymont Harris. We were not so lucky in ’98. Kramer was healthy for only eight games, the remaining starts going to Steve Stenstrom (7) and Moses Moreno (1). Bobby Engram led the team in receiving, Marty Carter in tackles, Mike Horan in punting.
And our best running back was Packers-castaway Edgar Bennett.
Following the retirement of Neal Anderson in 1993, the Bears churned through nearly as many running backs as quarterbacks. From 1994 until 2000, the following players chipped in at tail back for the Monsters of the Midway: (listed in order of most carries)
Raymont Harris: 592 carries, 2245 yards, 15 TD
Rashaan Salaam: 470, 1684, 13
Curtis Enis: 456, 1497, 4
James Allen: 380, 1509, 3
Lewis Tillman: 304, 977, 7
Robert Green: 192, 941, 3
Edgar Bennett: 179, 639, 2
Darnell Autry: 112, 319, 1
Michael Hicks: 31, 106, 0
Tim Worley: 9, 17, 1
Bobby Christian: 7, 29, 0
Bam Morris: 3, 8, 0
Ronnie Harmon: 2, 6, 0
But the drafting of Anthony Thomas in 2001 gave the Bears one record-setting back, the signing of Thomas Jones in 2004 gave them another, and it is with great pleasure that we give these two men spots on the readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Team.
Thomas came aboard in 2001, a second round draft pick who starred at Michigan. His impact was almost immediate: after carrying the ball one three times in the first two games, Thomas split time with incumbent starter James Allen in the team’s third and fourth games, outperforming the veteran. (22 for 115, 5.2, 1 TD for Thomas…30 for 102, 3.4, 1 TD for Allen.) The following week, Thomas took over lead back duties and had a breakout game: 188 yards on 22 carries and a score in a 24-zip win over the Bengals. He went for 127 and a score and then 96 and a score in the next two games (the Mike Brown wins) and went on to set a Bears rookie record with 1183 yards. (That record has since been broken by Matt Forte.) Thomas’ rookie performance was rewarded with the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award as the A-Train helped lead the Bears to a 13 win season and its first playoff appearance since 1994.
2002 was a disappointing season in all ways, and Train’s numbers reflected that: 214 carries for 721 yards and 6 scores, with four games lost due to injury. In 2003, Thomas became the first Bears back since Neal Anderson to produce multiple thousand yard seasons, and following the team’s signing of Thomas Jones in 2004, the A-Train enjoyed a final hurrah during a three-game stretch with Jones injured, in which he racked up 280 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears won all three games, their first three-game winning streak since the 2001 season.
TJ had a successful 2004, leading the team with 948 yards and 7 scores. He also proved a valuable receiving threat, setting a Bears RB record with his team-leading 56 receptions. (That record has also since been eclipsed by Forte.) In 2005, Jones was a true force. His 1335 yards rushing was 9th in the NFL—more significantly, he became only the second back in Bears history after Payton to amass 1300 yards in a season. Jones topped the 100 yard mark five times, scored nine touchdowns, and was the offensive lynchpin and leader for a team that won a surprise 11 games and a division crown.
After a slow start to 2006 in which the passing game prevailed, Jones returned to form in during the Week 4 shalacking of the Seahawks. He went on to rack up 1210 yards, placing him with Payton as the only Bears backs to gain 1200 yards in consecutive seasons. The Bears won an NFC-best 13 games and reached the Super Bowl behind Jones’ stellar running. In his final three games in the navy and orange, Number 20 was remarkable: 55 carries, 301 yards, a 5.5 ypc average and four touchdowns. He was terrific in Super Bowl XLI, gaining 112 yards on only 15 carries…even if you remove his TD-creating 52 yard 1st quarter scamper, he still averaged over four yards a carry…and now we are going to stop writing, because if we think too much about Thomas Jones and Super Bowl XLI, we go batty…
From August 27, 2006: ‘Two backs, one ball’–the story of Jones v. Benson, PT. II